Study: Mares, Foals Can Benefit From Blue-Light Masks

Among other results, scientists found that foals born to light-therapy mares were more mature at birth and grew faster.
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Study: Mares, Foals Can Benefit From Blue-Light Masks
Researchers studied the effects of exposure to short wavelength blue light in a commercially available facemask on gestation length, foal birth weight, and foal hair coat at birth. | Photo: Courtesy Equilume
A lighted broodmare barn “tricks” mares and foals into kicking growth into gear, allowing early-born foals to have good birth weights. That’s good for both health and welfare in industries aiming for January babies (like with U.S. Thoroughbreds) in a species that naturally produces offspring in the spring.

However, the welfare consequences of being stalled up constantly to get that light could offset those benefits, researchers say. A mobile light device could free up mares and their foals to roam at pasture while still gaining light therapy’s benefits.

The device—a facemask that casts a dim blue light into one of the mare’s eyes for a few hours every evening—was sufficient to obtain all the benefits of stable light therapy while allowing mares and foals to move freely outdoors, researchers learned in a recent study.

“Horses are migratory herd animals that in the wild walk up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) a day, so having a mare stand in a stall for 16 hours per day to facilitate light therapy is not the best option for her welfare, nor her fertility,” said Barbara Murphy, BScEq, PhD, of the University College Dublin School of Agriculture and Food Science, in Ireland

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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